France’s Arnaud Démare of FDJ expressed great emotion as he crossed the line victorious, winning the 107th Milan-Sanremo presented by NamedSport ahead of Englishman Ben Swift and Jurgen Roelandts from Belgium. Unfortunately, Colombian sensation Fernando Gaviria crashed on the final stretch, but it was once again a thrilling finale with favourites Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara and Alexander Kristoff in contention.
A crash with 30km to go hampered Michael Matthews’ chances of victory. Démare was also involved, as well as Geraint Thomas and Simon Clarke, but he made it back to the main group before climbing the Poggio where repeated attacks were launched, by Andrea Fedi (Southeast-Venezuela), Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Cycling Team), who tried his luck on the descent. Kwiatkowski was the last attacker to be reeled in before the sprint was launched with 1km to go by Edvald Boasson Hagen and then Roelandts, before Démare wrote his name in the Milan-Sanremo record books.
The winner, Arnaud Démare, said: “I thought it was game over. From the team car, I was told that Michael Matthews’ group was behind, but that I shouldn’t worry. William Bonnet was along. I had great legs on the Cipressa and successively I found my team-mates, Matthieu Ladagnous, Kevin Reza and Ignites Konovalovas, who replaced in extremis at the foot of the Poggio. I thought I had lost a lot of energy but I climbed the Poggio very well despite my efforts. But everyone was cooked and I had nothing to lose. I launched my sprint from far out as usual. I had lost track of how the race unfolded so I wasn’t too sure if all the attackers had been caught, but the cars ahead of the race helped me to understand that I was sprinting for the win. I thought it would have taken me more experience to win Milan-Sanremo, one of the five classics that all cyclists dream of winning.”
Ben Swift: “I keep trying to win Milan-Sanremo; it’s a great race for me and my favourite classic. We wanted to make it an attacking race. We had a strong team but, unfortunately, Geraint Thomas got caught in one of the crashes. There was a pile-up and we lost it there, really. Michal Kwiatkowski unleashed a great attack toward the finish, putting pressure on the guys to chase. He nearly pulled it off. I was disappointed to not get the win but, at the end of the day, it’s a very good position. There’s not much else I could have done. Arnaud Démare is a fantastic sprinter.”
Jurgen Roelandts: “At Tirreno-Adriatico I was feeling better and better every day. I was eighth on the last stage, which boosted my confidence. I’ve enjoyed a good winter preparation. Over the Cipressa and the Poggio I felt I still had a lot of strength in my legs and showed it in the sprint, launching from far out. It was my only chance to do something and it’s a pity that Démare passed me at the end. I have mixed feelings – I’m very happy with my result but winning a Monument would have been even more chic.”